Like clockwork every summer, I decide that the only thing I want to eat, maybe forever because when it’s warm out I completely forget winter is coming (I’m sorry, I had to), are variations on tomato-cucumber salad. We did a world tour of these last year and it might take me another decade of Smitten Kitchen-ing but I will get to them all. Left to our own devices, my husband and I probably would probably eat do exactly this for dinner at least a couple nights a week but when feeding kids, I always feel the need — I mean, what are they, growing rapidly and we’re supposed to fuel them with balanced meals or something? — to provide a little more than a bowl of cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner. You know, protein and stuff.
In the U.S., we generally think of hummus (which simply means “chickpea” in Arabic) as a cold snack, a dip you buy in the fridge case to help distract you from, say, cool ranch potato chip dip or something. But throughout the Middle East, there are hummusiots/hummsias, places that serve hummus warm and freshly made, often a little softer than what we get here, usually heaped with other things. Yes, as a meal; a heavenly one. Toppings might include additional tahini or chickpeas, cooked fava beans (ful), sautéed mushrooms, roasted beets, hard-boiled eggs, falafel, spicy ground beef, chopped tomato-onion-cucumber salads, pickles, and/or green olives plus always a stack of freshly baked puffy pitas. In some areas, hummus is a breakfast food, accompanied with labneh and mint. And it is from daydreaming about all of this — with a reminder from this oh-so-tempting Ina Garten photo from last week — that I realized that the easiest way to turn my tomato-cucumber salad obsession in to a meal was to serve it hummusiot-style.
This could not be simpler to pull off for dinner tonight: chop some tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion and dress it lightly with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley (or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, as I did), toast some pitas, scoop some hummus onto a plate, pile it all together, and dig in. Repeat until September.
But — surprise, surprise — I got a little carried away. Should you wish to as well, here are two ways:
Homemade hummus, either your favorite recipe or mine: I’ve mentioned before that my favorite way to make hummus is a little persnickety, but for me, completely worth it: you peel the chickpeas. However, I picked up some dried already-peeled chickpeas (whoa) at Kalustyan’s and an hour or so of simmering later, blended up some unspeakably good hummus.
Make your own pitas or crisp flatbreads. I show here some yogurt flatbreads, but I’m being a terrible tease because they’ll be in this little thing that comes out in October. (I might have mentioned it once or twice before, heh.)
Hummus Heaped with Tomatoes and Cucumbers
- 4 large pitas, toasted, cut into wedges
- 2 cups prepared hummus (from this recipe, your favorite recipe, or your favorite brand)
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces or 225 grams) cherry tomatoes, chopped small, plus more to taste
- 8 ounces (225 grams) small cucumbers, washed, unpeeled, chopped small
- 1/4 medium red onion, chopped small
- Juice of half a lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Sumac and/or za’atar (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, or a mix of parsley, mint, and chives, plus more for garnish
Mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, lemon, about 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. If you have sumac, add about 1/4 teaspoon. Stir in herbs. Heap salad on hummus, arrange pita wedges all around. Finish with additional za’atar, sumac, and/or fresh herbs.